Nov 17, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The Timberwolves defeated the 76ers 110-86. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
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The true measure of a champion is not avoiding getting knocked down. Rather, it’s what a team does after it has been knocked down. Can the Philadelphia 76ers pass the true test of champions
The Philadelphia 76ers had circled the calendar date of November 17. On that date, the 76ers would face a team slightly ahead of them on the rebuilding curve. The matchup would be a good test to see just how competitive the suddenly two-win Philadelphia 76ers were playing.
As a matter of fact, it was a very anticipated matchup. On one hand, it was center Joel Embiid versus center Karl Anthony Towns. Big versus Big. But on the other hand, it was a test of “The Process” versus the more conventional path of rebuilding. In the end, it wasn’t much of a contest at all. The visiting Philadelphia 76ers seemed to be suffering jet lag, as the Minnesota Timberwolves jumped out to a 61-33 half time lead, and then cruised to a 110-86 victory.
That loss left a bad taste in Joel Embiid’s mouth.
At first glance, Joel Embiid appears as a young man with incredible promise in the NBA. But he is also a special player, one whose play springs from the passionate fan-fueled passion which is invariably made for the city of Philadelphia. Taunts by opposing fans, for lack of a better term, only serve to anger the rage within him, and focus that rage in the next contest.
His is the play that goes up a notch when provoked. And yes, as he sat on the bench rehabbing his foot for two years, that is exactly what he found plenty of. But from the moment he arrived, he has been Force Majeure.
And now comes his first test to himself and to the Philadelphia 76ers. Can the team, and the young rookie center, stand back up after the sound thrashing at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves? Expect the team to pass the test.
Joel Embiid is not a brash young man, playing off emotions. He has found a balance. And it’s that balance which makes him the ideal leader of this team. His emotions fuel his play and his focus. He is not angry at other teams, but more frustrated with himself. And it’s that passion, that raw unbridled surge of energy, which elevates his game.
We’ll know soon enough, as the teams square off in Philadelphia today, 3 January 2017. It’s not necessary for the Philadelphia 76ers to win the game in order to succeed at making a statement. But the team needs to play a competitive game.
That’s what champions do. That’s why I expect that is what Joel Embiid will deliver.